Blondie has always been a band less concerned with weaving dreams than with critiquing them in order to emphasize the distance between desire and fulfillment. They pioneered a reverse-twist musical archivism that's antiromantic rather than escapist: instead of digging for intact nuggets of nostalgia, Blondie went at pop tradition with a ball peen hammer, splintering and rearranging shards of the past according to an up-to-date aesthetic. Familiar fragments conjured up classic fantasies a series of teen dreams and B movies, all of them... Read More
starring Deborah Harry while the pared-down context underscored their irrelevance. Singing like either a petulant baby doll or a Thorazined waif, Harry modeled pop images, then ripped them to shreds.
With each LP, Blondie has updated their musical mosaic by assimilating another chunk of pop history. Plastic Letters added touches of neopsychedelic electronics to the mock-girl-group sound of the band's debut. The repackaging and refinements of last year's Parallel Lines helped reduce Blondie's we-know-better-now perspective from the larger-than-life campiness of their early work to a subtler, eyebrow-raised irony: a level of detachment perfectly calculated to let the group play it both ways with a discofied song like "Heart of Glass."
Smart, smirky and elating as those albums were, they had the unsatisfying feel of schoolwork turned in by a brilliant dilettante whose greatest effort went toward maintaining a stance of noncommittal, deathless cool that guarded against expectations while holding back energy for a future, more worthy challenge.
Alone among the bands that emerged from the mid-Seventies New York punk-club circuit, Blondie has always regarded success as necessary, well deserved and inevitable. You got the feeling that if Deborah Harry and Chris Stein didn't become famous as rock stars, they'd gain fame as something else.
With Eat to the Beat, all that smug certainty has been vindicated. Faced with the challenge of following up the million-selling Parallel Lines, Blondie has delivered a record that's not only ambitious in its range of styles, but also unexpectedly and vibrantly compelling without sacrificing any of the group's urbane, modish humor. As if to distinguish Blondie from the pop revival they helped catalyze, Eat to the Beat subjugates melody to momentum: in their construction and in Mike Chapman's dense, crystalline production, most of the tracks are organized around Clem Burke's superb drumming. The new LP is purposefully, I think less overtly hooky than Parallel Lines, exchanging that album's cool self-possession for an engaging neuroticism. If hooks are the small revelations of rock & roll, then the beat is its obsession.
Blondie's obsession here is with dreams and distancethe band's usual themes, now suddenly personalized by its own success. Like a comedian who outlasts and outclas